LAFAYETTE (KPIX 5) – Four years after a group of Lafayette citizens sued Pacific Gas & Electric Co. over a plan to cut down hundreds of trees, a resolution to the long legal battle may finally be near.
After the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010, PG&E embarked on an aggressive logging program near its pipelines. They told Lafayette they wanted to cut 1,200 trees, many along the Lafayette-Moraga regional trail.
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For the people who live there, trees are essential.
“We absolutely love trees,” said neighbor Dinesh Gomes. “There are a lot of beautiful oaks and a lot of other trees in this area, which is why we moved to this area as well.”
The residents then formed a group called “Save Lafayette Trees” which filed a complaint against PG&E.
Faced with opposition, the power company reduced its demand to 900 trees, then to 272, and it now stands at 207.
Michael Dawson, who co-founded Save Lafayette Trees, said he believed it was always about convenience, not safety.
“The only trees that should be removed,” Dawson told KPIX 5, “is a tree that poses an immediate safety concern, an immediate risk to public health. It should be removed, and we support it. from this, we will continue to fight for all trees. ”
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But PG&E says easy access to its pipelines is a matter of safety.
In a written statement to KPIX 5, PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian wrote:
“PG&E’s Community Pipeline Safety Initiative aims to ensure that safety teams can quickly access gas transmission pipelines in the event of an emergency or for critical maintenance work. “
For four years it was a dead end, but last week a breakthrough.
To settle the lawsuit, the city and PG&E each agreed to hire an independent arborist and a pipeline expert. The four experts will then assess each tree to determine if it really presents a danger.
No deadline has been set so far, but at its last meeting, the city of Lafayette approved an expenditure of $ 50,000 to hire its two experts. The findings are not binding, so neither the city nor PG&E are forced to accept the experts’ recommendations, but the very fact that they are hired shows that both sides are tired of fighting over it.
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“I think it’s a good faith effort on our part to say, restart,” Dawson said. “Let’s go back to this process and really come to a conclusion. What’s the best thing for our community? “